Be Nice Around Books: Signing Etiquette

Lines everywhere!
Lines everywhere!

For the last several days, a few of the Geekettes have been in New York for a professional book expo/Book Con. While we were very excited and had a very wonderful experience overall, we found that on the one day of Book Con, we lost our faith in humanity a little bit. Every person I attended Book Con with had a negative story. A box of one book was stolen from an exhibitor. A panel of the most famous bestselling authors was cut off by people more interested in free books. Line cutters everywhere.

Here are some tips that I, as a former bookseller and current literary fangirl, think could help everyone enjoy book signings a little bit more:

1. Be nice.

I know this sounds really simple, but I think more people need to hear it. Before you do something think about what you’d do if you found out someone else did that thing. Everyone goes to book signings because they like the authors and books. Everyone else is probably just as excited as you. Don’t make the experiences of other fans less fun.

2. Don’t be selfish.

Sarah and I waiting to meet Alan Cumming!

Bringing eight books to a book signing is not cool for the author or the fans. Most signings are specifically to promote a new book. While authors are usually very nice and don’t like saying no, imagine if you had to sign your name once for the hundred people at a signing. Now imagine if every fan brought five books. Your hand would kill! It’s no wonder Suzanne Collins used a stamp on her Mockingjay tour.

If you’ve got a lot to say to an author, consider writing him or her a letter to give in person. Again, most of the authors I’ve met are really nice and love to hear the impact they’ve had in people’s’ lives.  However, long lines suck. It’s one thing to say you love their work or ask a burning question. It’s another to tell the author your whole life story. Authors are really active on social media, so it’s very easy to reach out to them with lengthier comments on the interwebs. Or, consider putting yourself at the end of the line if you’ve got a lot to say.

3. If you don’t care what the author has to say, don’t go.

I love having signed, first editions. I think it’s super cool that my books will be worth something some day (not that I’d sell a single one). When I go to a signing though, it’s because I genuinely care what the author has to say. If all you want is the signed book, look online. Most authors, especially around Christmas, will sign books at a store near them and the store will ship them to you. Christopher Moore, Richelle Mead, and Maggie Stiefvater, three bestselling authors, all do it. Usually a store hosting an author will also have the author sign extra copies and sell them signed.

The most memorable moment I have from Book Con is halfway through the Cassandra Clare/Holly Black/Maggie Stiefvater panel, someone started setting up free books in the back of the room to hand out after the panel. I was floored that by the end of the panel, more than half the audience had gotten out of their seats to get in line for free books. While the authors were speaking. To me, that is so disrespectful. A fan is there for the author. A fan would rather soak in any time with the author than have free things.  I can not fathom what would make these people be so disrespectful.


Seriously, people. It’s common sense. Just because other people do it doesn’t mean it’s right.  As readers, we’re supposed to be more intellectual. Can’t that also mean we’ve got good morals? Lets not have events feel more like Lord of the Flies than the jungle scene in Mean Girls. We’re better than that, I think.



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